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US Inspecting Soviet Army Maneuvers

August 28, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ U.S. inspection of Soviet military maneuvers near Minsk is a confidence- build ing operation under the 35-nation Stockholm agreement reached last year to reduce international tensions, a spokesman for the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency says.

The United States this week invoked the treaty and notified the Soviets that it would send U.S. military inspectors to today’s maneuvers northeast of the Soviet city, spokesman Sigmund Cohen said.

He said it is the first such U.S. inspection of Soviet military maneuvers under the Stockholm agreement reached in September 1986 that seeks to lessen the chance of surprise attack or miscalculation.

The four U.S. military inspectors will watch about 16,000 Soviet troops on maneuvers, Cohen said. The agreement gives the Soviets a corresponding right to inspect NATO maneuvers in Western Europe, he said.

The agreement covers the territory from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains in the Soviet Union. Cohen described the inspection as ″very routine″ and not controversial.

In March, NATO observers, including two from the United States, watched as the Polish army conducted war games in northwestern Poland. That was the first time in 11 years that Westerners had been allowed to attend such activities.

The Soviets, under the 1986 Stockholm agreement, gave the United States at the beginning of the year a schedule of maneuvers they intended to carry out, Cohen said.

On Wednesday, the United States notified the Soviets here and in Moscow that American inspectors would be sent to watch the maneuvers near Minsk, and the Soviets readily agreed, he said, adding that U.S. allies in Western Europe also were informed.

The spokesman stressed that under the agreement, the country carrying out the maneuvers must agree to an inspection request by the other side. ″There is no right of refusal,″ he said.

State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said the inspection provision is designed ″to alleviate any questions a state may have concerning military activities of a participating state.″

Under the 1975 Helsinki agreement, Western and Warsaw pact observers were invited to watch maneuvers by the other side. But the Stockholm accord operates not by invitation but by the right of demand to carry out inspections. This is supposed to prevent the side carrying out the maneuvers from having enough time to disguise its operations.

The two sides, in principle, have agreed also to on-site inspection of their nuclear facilities as part of a treaty being prepared by negotiators in Geneva to eliminate U.S. and Soviet intermediate-range missiles.

Earlier this week, U.S. negotiators presented new proposals to make the inspections of the Soviet facilities less intrusive and less frequent. The offer, designed to ease concerns of U.S. intelligence experts who wanted to limit Soviet monitoring of U.S. installations, is expected to facilitate completion of the treaty.

The Soviets, traditionally reluctant to allow foreign personnel on their territory, first agreed to on-site inspection as part of a 1976 treaty with the United States setting limits on underground nuclear explosions for civilian purposes such as water-diversion experiments, but the treaty never was ratified by the U.S. Senate.

A number of experts are concerned that the threat of nuclear war is posed less by intended aggression than by mistaken interpretation of military moves by the other side. In that regard, the Reagan administration reached agreement with Moscow to strengthen the so-called ″hotline,″ a communications system between Washington and Moscow providing quicker access to explain questionable moves on either side.

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